Soldeu ski resort
Soldeu is one of the six ski villages that lie below the Grandvalira region, which has grown to become the largest ski area in the Pyrenees. Once fierce rivals with neighbouring Pas de la Casa, the two resorts have shared Grandvalira for the last 10 years, and it has since spread over the border into France.
As well as being one of the world’s biggest ski areas, it also has some of the most modern uplift. A fast network of six-seater chairlifts and gondolas makes getting around the wide sunny slopes quick and easy.
Soldeu itself lines the main road up to the border. As with most of Andorra’s old budget resorts it has moved ‘up market’ over the past decade or so and now offers some of the best hotels in the principality, including several 4- and 5-star choices. The budget options are still there, but they’re much less obvious than once they were.
Sometimes referred to as Soldeu El Tarter (lumped together with the small enclave of El Tarter down the road), it’s worth confirming that your hotel is actually in the resort when you book as the slopeside facilities at El Tarter are good but limited.
Soldeu is part of the Grandvalira ski domain, which takes up much of the northeastern part of Andorra. The small principality is sandwiched between Spain to the west and France to the east in the Pyrenees mountain range, about 160km (100 miles) north of the Mediterranean Sea.
On the slopes
Soldeu’s ski area has grown to cover more than 200km (125 miles) of pistes linking six different bases. The original area, which joined the villages of El Tarter and Canillo together, had been linked for some years to neighbour Pas de la Casa, but no joint lift ticket was available.
But, in 2004, all that all changed as the two areas joined to form Grandvalira, immediately creating the largest ski area in the Pyrenees and one of the biggest in Europe. The combined area has subsequently expanded into France and now has a good number of high-speed detachable six-seater chairs and gondolas, giving it one of the most modern and efficient lift systems around.
Despite its southerly latitude, Andorra’s ski villages are at a high altitude and, even in poor snow winters, more than 1,000 snow guns can be fired up to cover most of the pistes. The overall season runs from the start of December until late April.
The giant ski area has plenty for all levels of skier, but is predominantly made up of wide, fast intermediate blues and reds above the tree line. But there are excellent nursery slopes and highly regarded ski schools to teach beginners. There are fewer opportunities for experts, but there are still 22 black runs – the toughest is, arguably, the 2km-long (1.2 mile) Avet No Fifteen run.
Off-piste courses and heli-skiing excursions are also available and are organised by the ski school.